網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

of Wordsworth find in his verse, what Arnold called the healing power of nature. I do not myself see any healing power of nature in such instances as Michael, or Ruth, or the affliction of Margaret; there are wounds which nature cannot heal, and Wordsworth was sensible of this: he did not, as Arnold says he did, look on "the cloud of mortal destiny" and put it by; no English poet can. But it is true that in the life-long appeal that Wordsworth's verse makes especially to the sober and aging mind by virtue of its equable temper, its moral strength, its simple human breadth of sympathy, as well as by its supreme rendering of the spiritual uses of nature in our daily lives, its tranquillizing power is also a main source of its hold on the general heart.

If we do not fare forth

Such, in its phases, is the discipline of nature for the soul as Wordsworth presents it. The poetic act, as I have said, is the going out of the soul. on any quest of the old knightly days, yet all life consists in such a faring forth, in going out of ourselves into some larger world, practically into a club or a church or a college or a political party or a nation-in literature it consists in going out into the race-mind, in any or all its forms, into the life of the race as an idealized past, or as a part of present nature or present humanity. I have illustrated, hitherto, the imaginative or spiritual forms of history, and to-night the imaginative or spiritual forms of nature, in either of which the soul may take its course in the larger life, and going out of itself find the freedom of the universe its own-in beauty, reason, liberty, righteousness, love-the ideal elements to which all paths, whether of history or nature, lead, when imagination is the guide. It remains only to illustrate the

same general theory by the example of the poet who dealt most powerfully with human life as a thing of the present as Wordsworth dealt most powerfully with nature in the same way. That is the next, and final, lecture.

VIII

SHELLEY

IN lecturing on Wordsworth I did not refer to his bestknown verses, the half-dozen lines which have more luminousness of language, I think, than any other English words:

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar;

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home."

"Magnificent poetry," said John Stuart Mill, "but very bad philosophy." However that may be, the lines express the idea, natural to all of us, that we are in some sense heirs of past glory. We are accustomed to think of heredity, as something founded as it were in past time under the operation of the laws of natural selection, and stored in us physically; and embryologists say that the long series of physical changes, in consequence of which man finally became in his body the lord of living creatures, is reflected with great rapidity in the human embryo, so that when the body is born it has in fact passed through the entire race-history in a physical sense. We are no sooner born, however, than we enter at once on a new period of heredity, and acquire also with great ra

pidity the mental and moral powers which originally arose slowly in the race through long ages of growth, and we become civilized men by thus appropriating swiftly funds of knowledge and habits of thinking, feeling and acting; this is the education which makes a man contemporary with his time, and perhaps it normally ends in the fact, for most men, that he does what is expected of him, and also feels and thinks what is expected of him. That is the conventional, well brought up, civilized man.

There is a third sphere of heredity, with which these lectures have been concerned, in which it is more a matter of choice, of temperament and vitality, whether a man will avail himself of it, and appreciate it. Men, generally speaking, are but dimly aware of their powers and capacities outside of the practical sphere; in our growing years we require aid in discovering these capacities and exercising these powers; we require, as it were, some introduction to ourselves, some encouragement to believe we really are the power of man that we are, and some training in finding out vitally what that of man in us is. This is our use power the earliest of literature; it interprets us to ourselves. It does this by fixing our attention on some things that we might not have noticed on natural things of beauty, and by providing appropriate thoughts and stimulating delightful emotion in respect to these things; or it helps us by arousing feeling for the first time, perhaps, with regard to some part of life, and by giving noble expression to such new feeling or to some emotion hitherto vague and indeterminate in our bosom; and it especially aids us by giving play to our forces in an imaginary world, where both thought and feeling may have a career which

« 上一頁繼續 »